So many initiatives on the go…where to begin?

Baby chicks in Ilima recently received their vaccines for Newcastle on the increased vaccination schedule.  This new timetable means that between the regular flock vaccinations every three months, recently hatched chicks will receive their dosage earlier.  As the mortality among chicks is still very high, it is hoped this will help swing the favour back toward the birds.  The vaccine protocols need some minor tweaking here and there but it’s on our to-do list.  It took two days to complete the vaccinations but we were happy to lend a hand!

So many chicks, only so many hands!

Some chicks didn’t appreciate the vaccination so off to hide from the evil vaccinators!

Hiding under Mom!

While currently working on translating the training manual in use by the teacher farmers, we have made some good advances in updating material to include that will cover nutrition, housing and general information on raising chickens.  More training in nutrition has been a common request from the farmers during our interviews and is something we feel we can accommodate.  Millet grows wild in the region, termites populate the dying vegetation and even banana peels can contribute to the health of chickens without taking from the maize, which is used to feed the families.

With sustainability in mind, a micro-credit system of chickens as the commodity is being planned.  An initial injection of new birds into the program will be the starting point for a continuing pay-forward of birds to other farmers, as well as a potential payback into a fund that will assist in purchasing supplies, pre-mixed feed, etc.

We continue to receive positive feedback from the village elders and the farmers with whom we interact, as well as some wonderful ideas on how they’d like to see the project progress.  As we intend to move forward with the final goal of having the villagers themselves take full ownership of this project, having active input and interest displayed by both teachers and students is a wonderful sign.  The people here are very creative, intelligent and not only willing to learn but teach us much about caring for chickens in a village environment.

Slow but sure…

A few hiccups here and there have been showing up like the speedbumps they are so fond of putting in towns in Tanzania.  For us, it is a lesson in patience (in the towns, it’s a necessity as the only highway goes right through it).

Much of our work currently involves interviewing farmers as we prepare to implement the increased vaccination schedule to help ensure the chicks are not waiting too long for theirs.  With luck, we will have all our data by early next week and the week after will see us accompanying the village vaccinators, assisting and assessing as we go.

The village itself is spread out across the side of a small mountain. So our days generally involve a lot of hiking up and down hills in the African sun.  Add to that our occasional day off with 14 km walks to see if we can make it to the next town over, and it’s a fair bit of miles being put on our shoes.

We live in a town called Ushirika, because the village of Ilima just doesn’t have the ability to put us up for three months. Ushirika is a small town of about 4,000 people with one short strip of shops and a market. The rest is all residential stretching out into the hills.  Our host, Esther, is a teacher at the Ilima Secondary School and has been a wonderful person with whom to live. She has a good grip on English, helps us with our Swahili and roasted up a huge bunch of karanga (ground nuts) that we spent a night shelling.  Many of the villagers feel that we cannot visit without receiving something so they tend to give us bags of ground nuts.  We’re certainly in no shortage of them.

Living is very basic here and based on a lot of adaptation.  Electricity is sporadic, along with water, so you grab a shower whenever you get the chance.  And that involves a bucket of very cold water.  Cooking is a long process as there isn’t really any kitchen.  Just a corner of the room with a small, portable one-burner gas stove.  Clothes are all done by hand-washing.

All-in-all, it’s a wonderful place. People love when we try out our basic Swahili and even more excited when we use the local dialect of the Nykyusa (I think that’s how you spell it) tribe.  Just a simple “Andaga” (thank you) can light up faces and get a great big, happy laugh.

So, our treks up and down the mountain continue.  Work aplenty to get done and time seems to be flying by too quickly.

Pole sana!

We are very sorry (pole sana) that it took so long to get an update on here.  Our internet access is very limited, as many of our other resources, too.

The village of Ilima is both beautiful and wonderful. The people have been nothing but welcoming and eager to work with us.  The work done by Adam and Monica last year appears to have made progress among a good number of farmers and we now have many more looking to get involved.  Sadly, we can only accomodate so many in one summer but we have high hopes that after ramping up the system and incorporating some new initiatives, next year could see more teaching farmers expanding into new groups with whole new batches of students!

Currently, we’re expanding the groups that already exist by another 30 farmers, as the teachers indicated this was the most they could bring into the current pool.  We will be training them directly to bring them up to speed with the others already involved and researching the possibility of incorporating millet and termites into the chicken feed, as they usually rely on maize grain.

Baby chicks still have a high mortality rate but we’ve already started to work on increasing the vaccinations for Newcastle disease to try and ensure the chicks are not waiting too long.

The views here are amazing.  Coming from Ontario myself, where there are no real mountains, I find it constantly a wonder to look around pretty much anywhere we are and see mountains.  The valleys and hills are covered in tea plantations, small fields owned by families, banana trees and sugar cane.

We have not had much time to go try any tours or hikes yet as we have been quite involved in making sure the project goals for the summer get moving, but sometime next week, we may be going to climb Mount Rungwe.

So, until we next get to a computer, enjoy the summer! I know we are.

I’d like to mention that my involvement in this project has been generously sponsored by Burnbrae Farms, CIDA, Iams (P&G) and many family and friends!

Tanzania Preparations

School at the WCVM finished two weeks ago, and I came back to Calgary for a crazy two weeks of visiting family and friends, and preparations for the trip. I tried to start my packing earlier than normal, but somehow I still have have packing left today before I leave for tomorrow!
It is always sad to say good-bye to everyone at home, but I am starting to get very excited. I cannot wait to get there, and start working on the project. I love to experience a new culture and meet new people. This summer is going to have its challenges but I think it is going to lots of fun!!!

A chicken toy for the kids in Tanzania!

Here We Go!

The final week to my departure on May 12, 2011!  This is a time of excitement, hurried last minute preparations, meetings with friends and promises of stories to accompany my return.  Basically, running around like a…well, like a chicken without uh….heh, let’s just leave it that.  ;D

So for the first time ever, I have pulled out my backpack/luggage a full week in advance.  Trying desperately not to make this a last minute frenzy of “Oh, I need that!” and “What am I forgetting???”.

Wondering if I can fit my dog in my backpack?

Before the Beginning

The transition from final exams to focusing on final preparations to travel across the world has been a humbling but productive experience.  As refreshing as it has been to break free of the classroom, the magnitude of the project and my anticipation of getting involved has been a roller coaster of emotion.  Excited, definitely.  Learning more about the trials of travelling, most definitely.


Tanzania – The End? Nah…

Well, tomorrow Monica and I spend our last day in the Rungwe district (tear, from her not me- real men never cry). In all honestly, it will be a very tough dayas we are having one last village meeting with Ilima and then spending the rest of the afternoon with some of our closest friends. In case you are just tuning in now, here is a little bit of what we have done..

Well, almost two months has passed since our arrival in Dar,
And after a few rough beginnings we have come pretty far,
Adam’s brief hospital visit that gave us quite a scare,
And overpaying each time when asked for bus fare,
We have come to consider Tukuyu a quite comfortable place,
Even constantly hearing “mzungo”, iterally meaning “white face”,
Our daily stops for at “The Lodge” for mishaki and chips,
The only place in the region that does not seem to beg us for tips,
The toilets are holes and the buses quite filled,
So when we refuse to move over, they are never quite thrilled,
All the time spent in Ilima speaking with farmers and helping birds,
They may not understand English but they know we are nerds,
Monica ordering a bird book here instead of listening to me,
Because when it comes to Tanzania, there is no guarantee,
Sampling Dodoma’s vino as it was all we could find,
After a night with alter wine you are lucky you’re not blind
It has been an incredible experience, packed with laughs,memories and smiles
We kinda promised we would be back, got any more aeroplan miles?

Thank you to all who made this experience possible. We are headed to Ruaha National Park and then Zanzibar to see a little more of the country before going home..


Adam and Monica


Vaccine Time in Tanzania

Most birds are majestic creatures which gracefully glide across the sky and are capable of focusing so intently on the land below that is appears they are gazing into the soul of Mother Nature.

A chicken trying to avoid capture so it can receive an essential vaccination to prevent its death is not as pleasant a sight. In fact, if you are the big tall, slow white guy, who can barely string 3 sentences of the local language together, trying to catch said chicken for 5-10 minutes, you can almost sense Charles Darwin turning over in his grave. To be fair, we had instructed our teaching group to tell their students to KEEP YOUR CHICKENS INSIDE, but we also said a lot of other things that day, they were bound to forget something. Needless to say, we did not vaccinate a lot of chickens on the first day.

However, things picked up quite quickly. We have now vaccinated over 600 chickens between the 55 farmers we are working with and are going back tomorrow to finish with the last few houses. Interestingly enough, there has been quite a dramatic increase in the number of birds per farm especially considering we surveyed all of these people less than a month ago. I like to think that they have just been diligently following our advice and that this rapid progress is simply an indication of our surreal poultry education methods rather than the more likely explanation of a suspect addition of birds from their neighbours…

Joking aside, there has been some notable improvements in poultry husbandry within the village. It was a very proud moment when we saw our vaccinator-teacher-student system being put to work in the past few days as Monica and I were able to simply observe the process instead of feeling inclined to assist directly with the vaccinations. I believe that the group of people we have selected is a responsible and motivated team who will be able to continue on with their duties during the months that we will not be here. We have almost now finished our education materials which will be left with each one of these people allowing for better communication between all parties throughout the year as well as some built in mechanisms of evaluation for future project work.


Mt Rungwe and the Food

For our last full weekend in the Rungwe district, Monica and I played tourist and arranged some adventures through a local company to a few of the more scenic locations in the area. Our most exhausting expedition was to climb Mt. Rungwe this past Sunday. Monica will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro after our work here is done, so we figured this might be a good, inexpensive warm up for her.

The climb itself took about 8-9 hours round trip and was quite a tiring affair. The mountain is home to quite a number of animals with our favourites being the monkeys who, I believe, rather enjoyed seeing us struggle as they carelessly jumped from branch to branch. Another minor set back was that the guide basically had no idea where we were for the first 2 hours of the trip. I guess during the wet season there can be so much growth that it covers the path..or so they told us. Anyway, we managed to make it down with only a few scrapes and bruises meaning that I am about 2 weeks away from keeping my number of trips to the regional hospital to 1. 

Now while Monica may take joy in paying copious amounts of money to climb a big rock, my energy is usually spent trying to figure out the quickest, cheapest, and most delicious path to acquire more energy. I would be lying to all our devoted blog followers (which by my last tally was just Monica) if I said that I was not concerned about the quantity and quality of food available during my time here. Well friends, you will be happy to know that Tanzania is home to some of the tastiest and more affordable meals I have ever had. As our daily routine began to evolve in the past month, it was clear that a stop at “The Lodge” was to be included. The menu is pretty straight forward as our options are rice and meat or chips and meat but what they don’t tell you in the guide books is that cheap hot sauce is available everywhere and served with every meal. This has been my saving grace. Throw in the fact that Monica tends to only eat ½ a plate of food and I have really struck gold.

Another art we have perfected is the bus order. We spent quite a bit of time in the morning waiting for our buses to fill up which means we are the ideal customers for the various stand owners to approach. Bananas, doughnuts, ground nuts, as well as about 15 different styles of clothing with the word Obama printed on them, are all within arm’s reach. And to think, in North America I was driving up to the window to purchase food like a sucker. We are definitely well taken care of in Tukuyu and this sort of in your face hospitality is something ,I for one, will sorely miss.


Adam and Monica go to school in Ilima, Tanzania

Turns out being a secondary school teacher is a bit harder than I gave it credit for the first time around…

Monica and I have spent some time at Ilima Secondary School the past few weeks teaching Form 1 and 2 students basic poultry husbandry. Armed with little prior knowledge regarding the subject and limited teaching experience, we were thrust in front of a class of about 75 students each. Throw in a Swahili vocabulary comparable to that of the species we are teaching about and it was an interesting experience to put it politely. The kids only begin to learn English in secondary school in Tanzania so there was quite a bit repetition throughout the 90 minute sessions. 

It would be fair to say that Monica and I have pretty opposite teachings styles so while she was preparing notes and going through concepts for the following day, I basically wrote the word “kuku” a bunch of times on a piece of paper and figured that the material would come back to me when needed- not always the best approach.

Just like in any school, you have the keeners, the “sleepers”, the kids who could care less about what you are talking about, and a whole bunch of other different types of students. It was a nice experience to get to share some info we have learned and in all honesty, we had lots of fun. There is a poultry building at the school that is currently under construction so the hope is that through these sessions the students and staff would be better prepared for when it becomes operational..

I am starting to think we are becoming the best customers of the local stationary stores as the school required copies of lecture “notes” for the students. Three hundred copies later we were on our way and we hope that by this time next year some of those concepts will be put into practice.

This week is our last in Ilima and we are vaccinating chickens. Should make for some interesting stories!


Adam and Monica